Mountain exploration for beginners

Get yours steps in on these great tracks in the Hurunui

Best for absolute beginners

Balmoral Fire Lookout, Culverden:

A gentle climb of approximately 30 minutes (more of a hill than a mountain - best to ease into these things) with panoramic views over the braided Hurunui River, the Balmoral Forest and Amuri Plains. Located just after the Hurunui Hotel on the right before the bridge, it makes for a great place to stretch your legs, especially if you are heading to Hanmer Springs or further north. 

The fire lookout at the top is one of only four remaining in Canterbury, and this 1939-40 example in the Balmoral Forest is the only remaining timber fire lookout in Canterbury. The Balmoral Fire Lookout complex was associated with an important part of forestry management and protection for almost 40 years.

Think of it as Conical Hills younger brother - if you've driven to Hanmer Springs you will have driven straight past it, but in our opinion, the views are some of the best in town. Don't believe us? Take a look for yourself. 

Hot tip - not so keen on the hike? A trip down the Hurunui Bluff Road will still get you great views over the Hurunui River.

Best for families with children

Conical Hill, Hanmer Springs:

Enjoy stunning views over the beautiful alpine village of Hanmer Springs. A gentle 30-minute stroll to the top, the track is well formed and easily accessible from the centre of town. Kids will enjoy shortcutting to the top - a great way to burn off excess energy.

Best for overnight hikes

St James Walkway:

This track passes through pastoral land, beech forest and sub-alpine regions, and is a great introduction to multi-night tramping.

This tranquil subalpine track has long been a favourite destination for trampers. Suitable for all ages and abilities, the 66 kilometre track usually takes five days. 

There are five serviced huts on the walkway and you can also stay in the Magdalen and Rokeby huts. 

Day 1: Lewis Pass – Cannibal Gorge Hut or Ada Pass Hut 

The track leaves from the carpark near the Lewis Pass summit. Walk across a natural open bog, through the forest then descend in a steep zig-zag into Cannibal Gorge on the Maruia River. Cross the swing bridge and walk six kilometres to the Cannibal Gorge hut set on a large grassy flat.  

If you’re still full of energy, you can carry on, following the Maruia river through beech forest and open alpine fields to Ada Pass hut. 

Time:   3 hr, 30 minutes (7km) to Cannibal Gorge hut (sleeps 20)

5 hours (10km) to Ada Pass Hut (sleeps 14) 

Day 2: Ada Pass Hut – Christopher Hut 

From Ada Pass Hut and its spectacular views of the Spenser Mountains, the track leads through native forest over Ada Pass into the Ada valley. The beech forest gradually gives way to open areas of tussock and mountain beech. Keep an eye out for the wild horses. 

Pass the historic Christopher Cullers Hut on the way to Christopher Hut with a sweeping panorama of mountains and valley. 

Time: 4 hr, 30 min (10.5km) (sleeps 14) 

Day 3: Christopher Hut – Anne Hut 

From Christopher Hut, descend down the valley along the banks of the Ada River. Walk through open flats, matagouri thickets and open rolling and swampy ground.  Ada Homestead is well worth a visit. Cross a suspension bridge over the Henry River before arriving at Anne Hut and some great river views. 

Time 4 hr 30 min (13km) (sleeps 20) 

Day 4: Anne Hut – Boyle Flat Hut 

From Anne Hut, this walk crosses several bridges as it makes its way along the Anne River. 

The track continues up and over the Anne Saddle into the Boyle Valley. A suspension bridge over the Boyle River takes you within 100 metres from the Boyle Flat Hut. 

Time: 7 hour 30 min (17km)(12 bunk) 

Day 5: Boyle Flat Hut – Boyle settlement 

The final section passes through flats and bush alongside the Boyle River.  Suspension bridges criss-cross the Boyle River, leading you down the valley to reach SH7 at Boyle village.  

Time: 5 hours (14.5 km) 

Well signposted, and marked, the St James Walkway is not difficult but the climate can be extreme so it should not be attempted in winter unless you’re an experienced tramper. 

No dogs.

Best guided tours

Island Hills Station Walking Track:

Ease into the hiking world on the Island Hills Station Walking Track. This is a self-guided private walkway which is well marked, and pack transport makes it even more appealing to those looking for a stress-free adventure. The lodge style accommodation facilities feature a fully serviced kitchen, BBQ and dining facilities, bunk beds and plenty of privacy. Plus, enjoy the luxury of hot showers, super comfortable beds and pillows.

Choose between 3 day or 2 day options.

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Contact Us

42 Amuri Avenue
Hanmer Springs
New Zealand

Phone: +64 3 315 0000
Free phone : 0800 442 663 (NZ only)